The path to umami

As you know, the crucial elements of sake are rice, water, yeast and koji rice. Every ingredient and process is important. Does this mean a sake's flavor is largely determined before the moromi is pressed? Not necessarily. Maturation is another key step. Temperature, time and aging in bottles or tanks all effect changes, good or bad, on the fresh undiluted sake that emerges from pressing.

For Kokuryu, the turning point that steered us toward specializing in ginjo and daiginjo sakes was Kokuryu Ryu. Brewery chairman Masato Mizuno had visited France and discovered a way to apply wine maturation methods to sake. After that, the long-matured daiginjo sake Ryu was born.

In Fukui, our home prefecture, fresh seafood like Echizen or Tanner crab exemplifies dishes in which the flavor of the ingredient shines through. Our goal for Ryu as a regional sake is to highlight and draw out the flavors of these ingredients. That means a delicate flavor profile that doesn't overpower the food, with good flavor and balance. To achieve this, we start by creating a sake with a slightly younger, fresher, zingier taste. Then we mature it at a low temperature. Finally, we achieve our goal: elegantly rich flavor and a silky feel.

All Kokuryu sake is stored, bottled and shipped from Kokuryu Kenjojima Sakezukuri no Sato, the sake-processing facility we built in 2005 to house our ideal maturation system. All the knowledge we've accumulated from creating Ryu is here. Much of our genshu, or undiluted sake, is stored here at proper temperatures.

One example: Kokuryu Ishidaya, our flagship junmai daiginjo sake, carefully brewed at low temperatures from special grade-A Yamadanishiki sake rice from Hyogo Prefecture's Tojo district. The genshu is matured for two to three years at freezing temperatures. The wild flavors of the new sake grow rounder, and by the time Ishidaya is bottled, it has evolved completely into an elegant sake with a settled bouquet and silky texture.

At our processing plant, the 1,200 square meters of cold storage facilities include a 700-square-meter cold storage warehouse for genshu, a 135-square-meter cold sake blending room, and 365-square-meter and 65-square-meter cold and ice storage rooms for bottled sake. In addition, there are two prefab ice freezers, 42 storage tanks and two cold storage containers. Through strict temperature control, we are able to consistently provide the finest quality of sake for our customers.

Rice and water are substances from nature that, with tender care, brewers transform into exceptional genshu. And given the right conditions, sake deepens its taste with time. Sake is, after all, a luxurious drink born of time and gifts from the worlds of nature and man.